K-12 Education Funding

The 2015 Nevada Legislature is considering changes to the funding formula for K-12 education.

What is the current state of K-12 funding in Nevada and how far is the state from funding education adequately?

    Nevada’s school districts receive operational funding from a variety of local, State, and Federal sources. To provide a broad overview of K-12 education funding, this figure shows the per-pupil funding each school district received from all of these sources in FY 2014. The statewide average in FY 2014 was $8,329 per pupil. While per pupil revenue for most school districts exceeded the average, these school districts represented only 11 percent of the State’s enrollment. In contrast, 84 percent of Nevada’s students are located in Clark and Washoe Counties, which received the least funding per pupil at $8,051 and $8,529 respectively. (The large size of these districts brings down the statewide average.) The districts with the highest funding rates were Eureka and Esmeralda, which received over $30,000 per pupil. Over 94 percent of Eureka’s funds came from local sources while Esmeralda received a mix of local (55 percent), State (39 percent), and Federal funds (6 percent).

    Hover over a bar in the interactive chart to see values for individual school districts.

    In January 2015, Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA) conducted a study to estimate the amount of funding needed to adequately fund K-12 education in Nevada. The statewide funding per pupil is $8,251, plus adjustments for school district size. APA also recommended weights of 0.42 for English Language Learners (ELL), 0.35 for at risk (low-income) students, and 2.1 for special education students.

    The Guinn Center calculated the amount generated by this formula per student for each school district in FY 2016 using FY 2016 projected enrollment and FY 2014 percentages of special populations (ELL, low-income, and special education).  The statewide average per pupil amount is $11,977 compared to the FY 2016 proposed revenue of approximately $8,667 per pupil.

    While Clark and Washoe would continue to have the least amount of revenue per pupil under this adequacy formula, the variance between districts would be much smaller than under the current funding model. However, even if an adequacy formula is implemented, actual revenue would likely exceed the formula for districts with high amounts of Net Proceeds of Minerals taxes (Eureka and Lander). A hold harmless formula could be considered to ensure school districts would not receive less funding under the adequacy formula than in the prior year.

    Hover over a bar in the interactive chart to see values for individual school districts.


    This figure shows that Nevada K-12 revenue has been increasing over the past few years in unadjusted dollars but still has quite a way to go to reach the adequacy goal outlined in the APA study. The amount shown for FY 2016 of $8,667 per pupil is an estimate based on Legislative committee actions through May 16, 2015.  This is $3,330 less than the adequacy goal outlined in the APA study of $11,977. The amount of additional funding needed to reach this goal is approximately $1.5 billion.

    Looking specifically at K-12 funding from state and local taxes, this figure shows that funding decreased due to the great recession and has not fully recovered. The figure shows per pupil funding in constant 2007 dollars to enable comparisons across years.

    The figure shows that statewide funding per pupil began to decrease in FY 2009. In this year, Nevada received $139.6 million in funding from the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The State used these funds as a revenue source for the Distributive School Account, which helped mitigate the impact of budget reductions on school districts. State and local funding increased in FY 2010 before decreasing significantly in FY 2012 and FY 2013. Per pupil revenues to school districts began to increase again in FY 2014, but per pupil revenue was still 11 percent below the peak which occurred in FY 2008.

    Individual school districts had very different experiences over this time period. Districts that receive high amounts of revenue from Net Proceeds of Minerals taxes (Eureka and Lander counties), experienced increases in revenue during years that other school districts experienced funding decreases.

    Click on a school district name in the legend to add or subtract school districts from the graph.

    Under current State law, charter schools are supposed to receive comparable funding from all sources. In practice, charter schools have experienced limited accessibility to State and Federal categorical funds compared to school districts. This figure illustrates funding disparities in categorical funds between Nevada’s school districts and charter schools  in FY 2014.

    There are several reasons for these disparities. Charter schools sometimes choose not to participate in State and Federal grant programs due to the small size of potential grants and/or compliance requirements. In some cases, charter schools are not eligible for funding. For example, charter schools are not eligible for class size reduction funding, which is the largest State categorical program at $160 million. Sometimes State or Federal grants are targeted towards at-risk populations, such as low-income students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) or English Language Learners (ELLs). Some charter schools do not have sufficient students in these populations to receive these funds.